Originally published on worthview.com
As a student, professor, researcher, or professional by degree, locating credible references on the internet is vital when performing any research or writing an academic paper. A lack of reliable sources can discredit an entire research project or potential publication. However, with such a wide range of options online, determining what is credible and what is not can be a tricky situation.
Dr. Kevin Dalby, professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas in Austin, is familiar with the struggles of finding credible references on the internet when writing an academic paper. As an individual who relies on the web at times for dependable references, Dalby provides useful tips on how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Start with Scholarly Databases
A proactive place to start gathering credible references is on a scholarly database. These online databases have a trustworthy reputation. Academic professionals and students usually have access to databases such as LexisNexis and EBSCO. Some databases require a subscription or financial contribution for those to use sources who are not attending a college or university.
Wikipedia gives off the image of an accurate single-hub stop for any needed information. However, Wikipedia allows anyone of the public to be an editor, and incorrect information added by any anonymous person can go days without correction or proper editing. This free-editing tactic damages the credibility of Wikipedia as an academic source.
Pay Attention to the Date
Research breakthroughs occur more often and frequently in our day and age as technology continues to allow humans to advance at a rapid pace. That is why article publication dates play a critical piece in determining acceptable references. Pay attention to the year the source and the source’s references were published. Information that is over a decade old may not be credible. A safe rule of thumb is to reference sources that are less than three years old.
Check Author Credentials
Anyone can be an author or create a website on the internet. Checking an author’s credentials can make a difference in the strength of a paper. Compared to a newly found blogger, it is much more beneficial to accredit a professional with over twenty-five years of experience. Look for authors who make it easy for readers to reference their other works or credentials.
Create a “Credible Question Check-List”
It is a great idea to create a list of questions that can be referred back to when checking the accuracy of a source. Start with basic questions that touch on quality standards. Here is a simplified example to use:
-Is the information in the article factual and well-researched with source references?
-Is the author a credible source in the specific research topic? Does the author have other related trustworthy works?
-Is the intended audience of the reference academic?
-Does the work appear to be biased to any affiliations?
-Is the source up to date?
About Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin. He is studying the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. Dr. Dalby’s efforts were recognized by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health, granting him nearly $5 million to support his research.